Chris Schroder had his best hair day in seventh grade -- and it was all downhill after that.
The future journalist and publishing entrepreneur began shedding his locks soon after and, by his early 30s, his follicles were confined to above his neck and ears. He worked to grow comfortable with his baldness.
While serving as creative director of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he shaved his head, receiving compliments from gay coworkers on his well-proportioned pate. Still, he felt slighted by his retreating tresses, believing his employers, romantic interests, and the public at large gravitated to his dome over all else.
At age 62, Schroder traveled to Istanbul to get a hair transplant and, soon after, chronicled his lifetime hair journey in the memoir Headscape: How a Bald Guy Replanted His Hair and Restarted His Life. Schroder filled us in on the realities of surgical intervention and broached the rarely discussed attachment between men and their manes.
What exactly is a hair transplant? There's a long history of hiding baldness -- Louis XIII popularized powdered wigs in the 1600s, toupees arrived in the 1700s, then men wore hats until JFK was inaugurated. Japanese doctors invented hair transplants in the 20th century. They extracted whole strips of scalp and moved them to the bald areas with mixed results. Then scientists discovered hair on the side of men's heads had different DNA than hair on top -- and it resisted testosterone's tendency to eventually kill hair follicles. In the past 20 years, doctors use microscopic punch tools to move individual follicles in a process called FUE. That was a game changer.
Many women embrace wearing wigs openly. Why can't men admit they've had a transplant? Joe Biden, Elon Musk, and millions of others have transplanted their hair but won't talk about it. At the age of 62, I flew to Turkey with my barber in 2019 where a clinic moved 5,000 follicles from the side of my head at one 10th the cost of surgery in the U.S. After 30 years as a bald guy, I now look like I thought I would when I aged. Everyone tells me I look 20 years younger, but they don't detect what changed. I was incredulous and decided to write a book about my lifelong struggle with baldness and life now with a beautiful head of hair. My only regret is I didn't do it years ago.
Men are supposed to look good but also be above vanity. How do we fix this? We're all vain to some extent and have one or two things we wish we could change about ourselves. Men fear being ridiculed for undergoing cosmetic surgery and instead let nature take its course. But this surgery is life-changing. I feel so much happier and confident.
Any tips for what young men can do when they start noticing hair loss or thinning? In addition to my personal journey, my book includes research on various aspects, including that 45 percent of transplant patients are between ages 26 to 35. The surgery takes one day and, with local anesthesia, doesn't hurt at all. I now realize I can help other men -- and women -- confront their insecurity about baldness and actually do something about it. Talk to your doctor and keep combing!